It’s the start of a new year and photography workshop season is spinning up. I’m finishing the last bits of preparation for my workshops, updating syllabuses, creating new presentations, researching new locations and finalizing several new teaching courses. It’s a lot of work, but it’s something that I am highly motivated to do in order to provide the best possible experience for my clients.
I was recently reflecting on my earlier career, before I ever took a photo workshop and then how that experience has changed me in positive ways. I was always a solo shooter, I didn’t like shooting with others. Photography wasn’t a social activity for me. It was a time for me to connect with my subject (nature) and enjoy a relaxing, meditative experience as I created images. Over time though, I started thinking about photo workshops and what that experience could be like and wondering if there was any value for me in them to advance my photography skills and creativity. I did some research and found a workshop leader, going to a location that I always wanted to go to and signed up. That workshop for me as a different experience from my past experience…..all positive for sure……but different. I was in a group of 10 people with two leaders and we travelled all over the Eastern Sierras. I enjoyed meeting most of the attendees and the leaders were absolutely fantastic, providing training and coaching in the field as well as classroom time for image reviews and more teaching. As a student of my own work, I have a relentless desire to continually improve and the stuff I learned on this workshop was incredible are lessons I carry with me today. I found that taking a workshop advanced my photography in ways that I couldn’t do by myself. I was convinced of the value of them for me. Seeing how others shot the same scene during image reviews helped to expand my creative vision, having knowledgeable leaders to guide my work in the field helped me capture my vision and taught me new technical skills and I have been able to meet a lot of great people in the photography field.
They are good for me, but what about you? Have you been on a photo workshop? Was it a good experience or a bad one? Why?I do think that everyone could benefit from a photo workshop. You do need to go in to it with an open mind, willingness to learn and being OK shooting, or at least traveling, with a group.
There is a huge difference between a workshop and a tour. If you’re considering spending your hard earned money on a photo trip, make sure you know what you’re getting. A photo tour generally involves a leader experienced with a particular location, taking a group of photographers to iconic locations and letting them shoot on their own at these locations. On some there is a teaching component, but I wouldn’t say that always happens. A workshop, as the word “work” implies, involves more than just going to great spots and shooting, there is work involved to improve your craft. Teaching in the field or in a classroom, evaluating images, studying some theory, all can be components of a workshop. The goals of workshop leaders is to have the attendees grow their photographic knowledge, skills and abilities so they come away with more than just great pictures.
Some workshop leaders are better than others at teaching and honestly you won’t know until you go on one of their workshops. If you are interested in attending a workshop, talk to the leader, ask questions about a typical day, ask about what kinds of teaching might be done, get a sense of their style and determine if that might be a good fit for you. If things sound good, go for it! At the very least you’ll be visiting some great locations and coming home with lots of images and memories. But hopefully, you’ll come home with a lot more……growth as a photographer!
So, as this season is starting out, I’d encourage everyone to at least consider whether a workshop or tour is something you’d benefit from. For me, it was a great experience that elevated my photography and laid the foundation for my creative career.
To check out my website, please visit www.johnpedersenphoto.com
I am a workshop leader based in the Pacific Northwest and run workshops across the western half of the U.S. If you would like any information about my workshops and creative education offerings, please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org